TRENTON - A state Senate committee on Monday delayed a reappointment hearing for Cape May County Prosecutor Robert Taylor, but not before Taylor's critics started building a case against him keeping the job.
Taylor arrived for his 11 a.m. hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee only to learn of the postponement. Taylor, a Democrat, had been nominated for reappointment in early December by outgoing Gov. Jon S. Corzine.
Taylor's hearing will take place Thursday in a committee room in the Statehouse annex.
Shortly before the hearing, D. William Subin, a former assistant U.S. attorney, caused a stir when he arrived, informing Taylor and others that he would testify against Taylor's reappointment.
Subin, of Atlantic City, defended state Trooper Robert Higbee, who was acquitted June 8 of vehicular homicide following a 2006 on-duty crash that killed two teenage girls.
Subin said the case against Higbee never should have been pursued in a criminal court.
"Even if it was done on bad advice, the fact is, with that job, the buck stops there," he said of Taylor's decision.
Taylor, who would not comment before or after the session, was named to a five-year term as prosecutor in 2004 by then-Gov. James E. McGreevey. But he has long faced opposition from a few vocal county residents over his office's handling of cases involving crimes against women.
Twice in the past three months, a Superior Court judge has thrown out a major indictment filed by Taylor's office, citing problems with preparation.
In December, Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten said a 124-count indictment accusing North Wildwood doctor John Costino of health care claims fraud and conspiracy was too vague. And in October, Batten dismissed an indictment against George Carty III, accused in the 1982 killing of a Lower Township man, saying a detective misled a grand jury on DNA evidence found at the scene.
Carty was later re-indicted. Taylor said previously that he will go back to the grand jury on Costino.
Sea Isle resident, Teresa Downey was thinking of other cases as she traveled to Trenton hoping to speak against Taylor.
Downey has been a longtime critic of the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office, since before Taylor took over, but said Monday that she thinks he has "exacerbated the problems in the department."
She followed the unsolved 1990 murder of Susan Negersmith, a 20-year-old woman who was found dead in Wildwood, and whose father, Kent Negersmith, battled for five years to have her death ruled a homicide after an autopsy deemed it due to exposure.
Downey wrote to the Senate committee Sunday mentioning similarities between Negersmith's case and the 2009 death of Tracy Hottenstein, who was found in Sea Isle City with multiple injuries but whose death also was ruled accidental.
Subin and Downey were disappointed about the postponement and said they would attempt to return Thursday. A time for the hearing has not been set.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, said the hearing was postponed because two fellow Democrats were absent: Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, was stuck in Florida following a lockdown Sunday at Newark Liberty International Airport, while Sen. Nia Gill, D-Essex, Passaic, was out sick.
"So we didn't have the votes," he said. "But we will Thursday."
State Sen. Bill Baroni, R-Mercer, Middlesex, said he expected to air public criticisms that day.
"There are some serious, significant concerns that have been raised to me, that I want to ask the prosecutor about," Baroni said.
"I don't think one case should ever determine the outcome," he added, when confirming he had spoken with Subin about Taylor's indictment of Higbee. "But the question is, is there a pattern in practice in his decision-making?"
After the hearing was canceled, Taylor spoke quietly for several minutes outside the meeting room with state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, who supports Taylor's reappointment.
Other nominations tabled until Thursday were for Marybeth Rogers, of North Bergen, to be a Judge of the Superior Court; Idida Rodriguez, to be a member of the Local Finance Board; and Dr. Simon Samaha, to be a member of the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority.
Three nominations were released by the committee for Superior Court judgeships in southern New Jersey and will go to the full Senate for a final vote:
n David Krell, of Pittsgrove Township, Salem County
n Joseph Marczyk, of Absecon
n John Porto, of Middle Township
Contact Juliet Fletcher: